My Neighbor’s Guilty Conscience

My neighbor told me this when
at the mailbox we happened to meet.
Seemed that all the day long he’d been
bothered after waking from his night’s sleep.

This he told to me: “Today I awoke with a start
just after dawn. In the early morning’s light,
my wife was sleeping still, but her lips did part.
Out flickered a forked tongue, then a horrible sight -

the head of a snake, a viper, slithered into view.
I could not move! The snake’s strange, yellow eyes
had me instantly mesmerized. I literally could do
nothing, as a viper more than five feet long in size

crawled out of my wife’s mouth, then beside me arose.
In perfect English with a British accent, thus he spoke,
“Do you still love this woman, your wife?” “Heaven knows
I do!” “Then let me bite her now. Better if she never awoke.”

“No! If you must take one of us, let it not be she. Bite me
with your deadly toxin.” “You care for her that much then?”
“Lord yes!” “But you’ve been contemplating adultery, I see.
When she discovers your affair - and it’s never if, only when -

the hurt, the humiliation, the death of your love and trust
will be like slow death for her. Those years of pain and grief
my one bite can spare her.” “No, don’t do it! I was just
planning an affair…that I would do so now is beyond belief.”

The snake smiled, actually smiled. “Excellent! Since your wife
decided the same each time I’ve appeared to her, it’s meant
for your love to last.” Then he vaporized! Nothing in all my life
has bothered me more. Why did the snake have a British accent?”

Harry Edward Gilleland      01.20.03